The Uganda Government is crafting a plan to train key people in the community including teachers and village authorities about sexuality. The initiative is spearheaded by the Ministry of Gender, Labor, and Social Development.
Dr. Daniel Byamukama who heads the HIV Prevention Division at Uganda AIDS Commission (UAC) says this comes after a short survey done during the lockdown in 2020 that showed that even as children have been at home for more than a year, they weren’t receiving guidance on sexuality matters from their parents and guardians.
By the age of fifteen, Byamukama says girls should have been taught about health and sexuality issues but because they don’t get such kind of information, this category is now accounting for the highest HIV prevalence as they record infections four times higher than the national average is about 6%, they account for. They are followed by young women of ages 20-24 years.
He says when they further analyzed their data on the girls getting infected, they realized the majority are those that are out of school who are also contributing to the high teenage pregnancy rates where statistics indicate up to 25% of girls in Uganda get pregnant before their 18th birthday.
According to Hope Namanya who heads Sexual and Reproductive Health at the Ministry of Gender, the process of coming up with guidelines for the out of school started way back in 2018, and that they aim at building capacity for these young people to be able to make responsible life choices and are confident enough to seek health services that they may need as they grow.
While she gave no hint on what they have so far agreed on apart from noting that they are considering cultural, religious, and national ethical values and norms in their drafts, she added that they have held meetings with civil society organizations, UAC, and religious institutions like the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council.
However, while this is happening, the country is also still grappling with deciding the right guidance to give those that are in school as the National Sexuality Education Framework launched by the first lady in 2018 was rejected shortly after the launch event.
The clergy who vehemently opposed it said it wasn’t age-appropriate and that it was shifting the traditional roles of parenting from parents to teachers. They worried that this document was ill-intended designed using a foreign culture that could erode our own culture.
Civil society reasoned that it was values based and yet it should be human rights based. Allan Nsubuga, an official from Civil Society Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) says those drafting should understand the different events that young people go through while growing depending on the environment where they are raised.
He said, the framework should speak to the totality of the life of those that are out of school considering that many are orphans, some of them have gone into sex work and don’t know how to demand sexual rights to be respected.
He says as the framework is being developed, the Ministry of Health should also be training health workers on how to handle special health problems of young people growing without the basic information others acquire from either school and lately the internet.